The Almanac


Illustrations by Aaron Meshon

Demographics

Those celebrating birthdays this month might wish they'd been born at a different time of year: according to a study by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, in Germany, Austrians aged 50 and older who were born in April through June lived, on average, 0.28 years less than people born in other months. The researchers also examined Danish statistics, and found a similar pattern. The optimal birthday season, in terms of longevity, appears to run from October through December: Austrians born in those months lived 0.32 years longer than average. These findings have been corrected for the fact that mortality rates usually peak in late winter and drop in summer, and they appear to override the so-called birthday effect -- the tendency of people to die shortly after their birthdays. One hypothesis about the pattern points to the increased probability of acquiring certain viral infections during the spring and early summer: newborns who get these infections, the theory goes, may be more susceptible to disease later in life.


Health & Safety

This month Japan levies a tax designed to help cope with a problem that is bearing down on the United States as well: an acute crisis in care for the elderly. All Japanese citizens aged 40 and older will be required to pay the equivalent of about $25 a month into a pool that will be used to subsidize nursing-home and home-care costs arising from aging-related diseases. This year 22 million Japanese (17 percent of the population) are 65 or older, and the figure is expected to reach 32 million (27 percent) by 2025. There are currently 35 million U.S. senior citizens, who make up 13 percent of the population; according to projections, there could be nearly 70 million, or 20 percent of the total, by 2030. The Japanese plan is intended to provide care for more people while reducing the financial burden on individual patients and the government. However, some fear that patients could be disqualified from services they need, and that the plan could bankrupt those whose care has hitherto been entirely subsidized by the government.


Illustrations by Aaron MeshonArts & Letters

April 1: Today is the deadline to register for the design competition for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, in Washington, D.C. The King Memorial will be located between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, a site that was chosen only after 15 years of disputes. It will be paid for with private donations. 24: The Library of Congress -- the nation's oldest federal cultural institution and the world's largest library -- celebrates its bicentennial. Commemorative coins and a stamp will be issued, a history of the library will be published, a time capsule containing items representing the bicentennial will be sealed, and books, documents, and prints that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the library, will go on exhibit. Other bicentennial projects will come to fruition this year. Most notable is the Local Legacies project, a compilation of significant cultural and historical events in each state, which is being added to the archives of the Library's American Folklife Center and posted online. More than 1,100 events have been compiled so far, covering such topics as Paul Revere's ride, in Massachusetts; the Chandler Ostrich Festival, in Arizona; the Athens Fiddlers' Contest, in Texas; and the National Hollerin' Contest, in North Carolina.


Government

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Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

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